Episode 71 – Catching Dictators with Reed Brody

The 25-year-long journey to bring a dictator to justice – Reed Brody came in to talk about his book To Catch a Dictator, The Pursuit and Trial of Hissène Habré. With a long career as a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, Reed tells the story of how he worked alongside victims and human rights groups in their quest for truth and accountability. This ended when the former Chad dictator was found guilty of rape, sexual slavery, and the killing of over 40,000 citizens in a hybrid tribunal in Senegal. 

But besides the title of ‘dictator-hunter’ that the media (bless ’em) assigned to Reed’s life-long work, he highlights the work and strength of the victims, who “became characters in their own rights”. Reed tells how survivors of torture and sexual and gender-based violence showed up in court to speak directly to their offender. 

Expanding the timeline, Reed explains how it was Nicaragua that got him interested in law during conflicts, while the trial of Chilean dictator Pinochet in London opened a whole new world of how to put dictators in the dock. 

Stephanie and Janet also ask Reed how he sees the future. A key point for him is that lessons are always passed on and will inform the next cases, which is what he sees happening in his work in Gambia now. And that is the lesson also for hybrid tribunals, where a statute can be drawn up to fit its purpose, as the case of Hissène Habré shows.

First and foremost, we suggest reading Reed Brody’s To Catch a Dictator, The Pursuit and Trial of Hissène Habré. And watch Argentina 1985 to virtually join Reed, Janet, and Stephanie’s conversation.


This podcast has been produced as part of a partnership with JusticeInfo.net, an independent website in French and English covering justice initiatives in countries dealing with serious violence. It is a media outlet of Fondation Hirondelle, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.